I finished the race yesterday! I came in dead last, as I suspected I would. But I also came in 3rd in my age group! I had my friend take a photo of my leg – marked with my age as of the last day of 2012. For some reason, yesterday this brought me great joy. I’m 60 years old and I am doing an Olympic Distance Triathlon! Believe me when I tell you that I could not have begun to do this when I was 20 or 30 and smoking and drinking.
When my wave got into the water they all sort of got way ahead of me, but I wanted to pace myself and not have a mishap in the water, so I went pretty slow. After about a half mile, I noticed one of the kayakers following me. I asked him “hey! are you stalking me?” He said, “just want to make sure you’re OK.” I told him “I am old and I am slow, but I am OK.” To which he replied, “We all get there someday.” I quickly added “IF we’re lucky.”
After the swim, I hopped on the bike and had about a mile’s worth of elation. Unfortunately, I had another 24 miles to go. At about 5 miles, a man pulled up beside me and asked me if I was on my first or second lap. When I told him it was my first, he said “You’re the last olympic distance, I’ll just drop in behind you.” And then the police motorcycle with the lights flashing showed up behind him. We were bringing up the rear, even though there were still sprint distance people on the course. On my second lap, the sprints pulled into the transition area, and then it was just me. That was when I started enjoying being last! I was all alone, escorted by the course marshall and a police motorcycle! A couple of major highways in Denver were closed – just for me! I was alone on Federal Blvd., on 29th Ave., Sheridan Blvd., and 17th Ave. For as bad as the bike ride was for me, it was an awesome experience that I will remember for the rest of my life! Now, I could have chosen to see it a humiliating – because it was clear to one and all that I was last – but it was awesome. I chose to embrace it. People were cheering me – thank God they could see the back of my leg.
I kept apologizing to the course marshall, whose name is Brian. He told me – “you are who I want to be when I am 60 years old, don’t apologize.” He told me his whole family is very unhealthy. I told him mine was too and that if he kept doing what he was doing, he would be fine when he was 60. I seriously would have taken my first DNF if he hadn’t been there urging me along.
Even so, when I pulled into the run transition area, I thought I would quit. I felt like I was going to vomit. My back, arms, and legs were all killing me – and I realized I had forgotten to apply the sunscreen I brought. But when I got off the bike, I really didn’t feel too bad. I thought I would just go out and walk 6 miles. Slowly.
But my time for the “run” wasn’t too bad, for walking. Brian came back at about 2 miles and stayed behind me. The police motorcycle came too, but Brian talked him into leaving, thank God. Listening to a motorcycle trying to downshift to be as slow as you are is disconcerting – to put it mildly. I was seriously ill by this time and it took all I had not to vomit or fall over.
It was then that it occurred to me that an Olympic Distance Tri is to a Sprint Distance Tri what a Full Marathon is to a Half Marathon. They are barely even the same sport. They are both exponentially more difficult. Not just twice as hard.
A woman runner who was just on the trail came along and joined me for a while. She was in the same race last year and we just chatted. It was helpful and distracting. By this time, Brian was backing off because he could see that I was truly suffering.
As we approached the finish at Mile High Stadium, Brian told me to go on and finish. He left me and I continued. As I was turning the last bend and saw the finish, I heard them announcing “the last triathlete is coming in!” Then the crowd that was left all headed over to the finish chute and cheered as if I were the first to finish! They all put their hands out and I slapped them as I went by, just like a champ! Of course, I was crying! It was amazing! The race director put the medal around my neck and herded me over to the medical tent.
The EMTs put ice on my neck and the race director brought me a towel full of ice cubes. They brought me muscle milk, and water, and cytomax. I sipped the water so as not to hurl! I asked the cute male EMT – do I look that bad???? He said he thought I looked great. So did the female EMT. Since I was the last one there, that nice young (did I mention handsome?) EMT said he would get my bike for me and bring it to my car. And he did!
Oh yes, I would have liked to have trained for this and done a Good Job on it. But I did what I did. And I think I may have learned more from this race than any other. Lesson number one? No more races – probably forever, but IF I ever do one, I will train for it! Lesson number one A? Humility is a good thing. And people are kind.
The essential form of Christian worship is therefore rightly called “Eucharistia,” thanksgiving. In this form of worship human achievements are not placed before God; on the contrary, it consists in man’s letting himself be endowed with gifts; we do not glorify God by supposedly giving to him out of our resources… but by letting ourselves be endowed with his own gifts and thus recognizing him as the only Lord. We worship him by dropping the fiction of a realm in which we could face him as independent business partners. — Pope Benedict XVI